MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - After hearing from a viewer that congestion at the intersection of Azalea Lakes Boulevard and the US-17 Bypass is creating a game of "vehicle Russian Roulette" for drivers, WMBF News Speed Patrol traveled to the intersection to investigate the need for county attention.
Don Ingerski, a retired traffic officer from Virginia, says congestion at the intersection often turns tense.
"I'll sit there, just waiting for the impact on some close accident to occur," Ingreski said. "There's no reason for it."
Ingerski says the accidents come as cars fight to criss-cross the busy highway.
"You're jockeying for position trying to get across the street," Ingreski told WMBF News. "Sometimes you'll have as many as four or five cars in that intersection, all trying to decide which way they want to go with 70 mph traffic coming."
He says there was a time when the intersection was calmer and less dangerous, but that things changed when the developer opened up a back outlet to comply with an Horry County ordinance.
"It essentially doubled the capacity of what this road, I think, was intended to do," he said.
The second outlet opens into The Peninsula subdivision, which sits off of Palmetto Point Boulevard. Now many of the people living in the subdivision are taking advantage of Azalea Lakes Boulevard instead to avoid the light at the Palmetto Point intersection.
"As long as you go the speed limit and respect them I don't see any problem with using that," Madeline Dickens defended.
Ingerski says he understands: "If I were them, to avoid that light at Palmetto Point I'd do the exact same thing."
Ingerski says something has to change, however, to avoid a potentially fatal accident at Azalea Lakes and the US-17 Bypass.
Horry County Councilman Bob Grabowski says it is very unlikely that a key-code access gate will be approved to go on the county-owned and maintained road, saying that a similar request was recently denied by the County Council.
He says a traffic light at the intersection in also unlikely because of its proximity to the Palmetto Point intersection.
Both the Engineering Department and the head of the Public Safety Committee say that there are some options, both short and long term, for residents:
The POA could request a traffic calming study that could potentially result in speed humps being placed on the road to deter some of the traffic from using Azalea Lakes Boulevard.
A No Thru Traffic sign could be placed at the back outlet to the development.
Other long term plans are already in place to extend Palmetto Point to SC-544, but according to Grabowski, those plans have been put on hold because of the economy.
Grabowski says Palmetto Point Boulevard is also slated to see improvements at its intersection with 17 Bypass. He says within the next 12-18 months, drivers should see an improved intersection with two left-hand turn lanes, a center lane, and a right-hand turn lane. These improvements could encourage more drivers to use this intersection rather than cutting through on Azalea Lakes Boulevard.